IRVING, Texas – Rolando McClain has been suspended for the first four games of the 2015 season for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy, the league announced Thursday.
This is McClain's second problem with failed drug tests during 2015, as he was faced with a four-game fine for a failed test back in February. At the time of that report, McClain faced a four-game suspension if he failed another test – which appears to be what has happened.
McClain will be eligible to participate in training camp practices and all preseason games, but he will be unavailable starting Sept. 5 and running through the Cowboys' Week 4 game against New Orleans. He can return to the team Oct. 5; his first game of eligibility would be the Week 5 contest against New England.
The suspension goes a long way toward explaining the team-friendly free agent deal McClain signed back in April. The six-year veteran signed a one-year contract worth roughly $3 million, but much of that comes in the way of incentives.
McClain's base salary for 2015 is only $750,000, with a healthy portion of the deal being tied up in per-game bonuses. He's scheduled to make $93,750 for each week he is on the 46-man game day roster – so a four-game suspension would cost him about $375,000.
The veteran linebacker is also in line for $250,000 if he places 60 percent of the Cowboys' defensive snaps, $500,000 if he ups that percentage to 70 and $750,000 if he plays 75 percent. If McClain plays 75 percent of snaps and Dallas makes the playoffs, the pay day increases to $1 million.
McClain struggled with various injuries throughout last season, though it didn't prevent him from making 81 tackles in 13 games.
The Cowboys signed veteran free agent Jasper Brinkley to provide depth at middle linebacker this offseason, and second-year veteran Anthony Hitchens also has experience at the position. It seems likely the Cowboys would turn toward one of those two with McClain unavailable.
McClain had already been one of the hot topics of this offseason, as he missed the team's OTAs while recovering from knee surgery at his home in Alabama. He suffered the injury last season, but surgery hadn't been seen as necessary up until the Cowboys had begun their offseason program. He returned to the team for its mandatory minicamp from June 16-18, but he did not participate in practices.